Ihesus. The floure of the commaundements of god.

London, Wynkyn de Worde, 1521.

£65,000

Folio. Ff (xxiv) 264 (misnumbered 260). Black letter, double column; woodcut initials in various styles (grotesque, naturalistic, etc.) decorative typographical tailpieces. Title within border of woodcuts, depicting Moses (Hodnett 491) and Aaron with followers (Hodnett 492) at the sides, the Pope enthroned with a bishop, friar, king, and laity supplicant before him, beneath (Hodnett 535), a church to the side. On the verso, a most expressive full-page cut of the Crucifixion (Hodnett 465), a fine large cut of the Trinity (Hodnett 451), another smaller with different imagery on folio xiv (Hodnett 362); Christ teaching the 12 Apostles the Lord’s Prayer, church and decorative border at side on fol. xxxvi (Hodnett 477). Lovely half-page cut on fol. cxxvii of the Saints in glory before God and the Virgin in architectural setting (Hodnett 538), tracery panels at sides; Caxton’s device with de Worde’s name inserted on verso of last leaf (McKerrow 46a), on verso covered wagon in landscape ‘Chertsey’ on the tilt, a curious coat of arms (Chertsey’s) above, surrounded by naturalistic panel borders, upper and lower bearing Caxton’s monogram (McKerrow 49 & 50).

Lower fore edge of t-p a bit frayed, four small clasp holes at outer and corresponding rust marks to that of next, a few small round wormholes to three or four ll., minor age yellowing in places. A very good, clean, well-margined copy in stunning contemp. London calf over oak bds., covers with blank outer border ruled to corners, surrounding double frame roll divided into compartments, containing a column between two half-moon faces, two columns with S-shaped leaves on either side, others conventional foliage & c. (Oldham Shrewsbury 5) enclosing central panel, reversed brass clasps (straps renewed), six raised bands, ruled spine. Alfred Ehrman’s, and other bookplates to front pastedown and fly, his monogram and case number on rear paste down, Broxbourne Lib. label beneath. A magnificent copy preserved in morocco folding case.

One of the final flowerings of the faith and culture of medieval Europe in Tudor England, translated from a French original by Andrew Chertsey (fl. 1502-27). Little is known of Chertsey’s life over than he supplied Wynkyn de Worde with a number of English translations of French devotional treatises and works of practical spiritual guidance. Chertsey added his own charming verse prologue to the present work – itself in prose (more largely) and verse – in which he declares his aim to have been one of common spiritual benefit rather than financial gain. The text is split into two parts, the first 126 numbered ll. comprise a very detailed practical commentary on the Ten Commandments, the Seven Deadly Sins, and the Cardinal Virtues; this is addressed to the ordinary reader, and provides a great deal of information on the state of both religious and lay society (as well as beliefs) of the time. The remainder of the work, apart from the very comprehensive opening table, constitutes the “Exemplayre” in which Chertsey gives hundred of examples of divine judgment, wrath, and mercy taken from the Legends of the Saints, the Lives of the Fathers, the Hony of Bees, the Promptuary, and contemporary events of everyday life. They vividly evoke the medieval world in which demons stalked the earth to battle with angels for human souls.

However, there is no affectation of piety about Chertsey’s English which is expressive, robust, and often colourful. It is much more modern than Chaucer’s but certainly not yet Shakespeare’s, rather occupying a lovely and much less well-known middle ground between the two. The text is well served too by the handsome and lively gothic illustrations and the binding is one of the most handsome, best quality and best preserved earlier Tudor bindings we have seen.

STC 23877. Ames II 186. Lowndes I 505. Wharton, History of English Poetry III 363-4. Hodnett p. 27. Not in Pforzheimer.

L1113

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